Lawmakers Call for Health Warning Labels on Most Video Games

Visitors play the game "Karma" at an exhibition stand at the Games Convention Online 2009 fair in Leipzig
Visitors play the game "Karma" at an exhibition stand at the Games Convention Online 2009 fair in Leipzig, Germany. Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

A new bill to require that most video games carry health warning labels that caution consumers about aggression has been introduced by two members of the House of Representatives on Monday.

The Violence in Video Games Labeling Act, H.R. 4204, if passed will require video game manufacturers to add a warning label on products that says: "WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior.”

The proposed regulation will require that the warning label be placed on packaging of any video games rated “E” for everyone, “Everyone 10+” for anyone aged 10 and older, “T” for teen, “M” for mature as well as “A” for adult, leaving the only “EC” for Early Childhood rated video games unaffected.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) would have 180 days to make sure that the Entertainment Software Ratings Board will add the new labels on games after the bill is passed.

The bill is a response to what representatives Joe Baca of California and Frank Wolf of Virginia say is growing evidence that playing violent games can have a serious, enduring impact on children.

“The video game industry has a responsibility to parents, families and to consumers — to inform them of the potentially damaging content that is often found in their products," Baca told The Hill. "They have repeatedly failed to live up to this responsibility.”

Previous studies have found a host of mental problems such as greater likelihood for depression, addiction and aggression among video gamers. 

A recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that violent video games desensitized players to violent imagery, and participants who played games like "Killzone" or "Grand Theft Auto" showed significantly more aggressive behavior against opponents, compared to participants who played other games.

"Just as we warn smokers of the health consequences of tobacco, we should warn parents — and children — about the growing scientific evidence demonstrating a relationship between violent video games and violent behavior," Wolf said. "As a parent and grandparent, I think it is important people know everything they can about the extremely violent nature of some of these games."

The latest legal challenge against the video game industry comes after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a proposed California law in 2011 that would have banned the sale of violent video games to minors.

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